The Benefits and Costs of Beauty

The Benefits and Costs of Beauty There’s no doubt about it: Good-looking people have a significant edge. As a result, they are more popular, more socially skilled, more sexually experienced, and more likely to attract a mate. In light of these advantages, it’s remarkable that physical attractiveness is not a sure ticket to health, happiness, or high self-esteem (Diener et al., 1995; Feingold, 1992b; Langlois et al., 2000). The life of Marilyn Monroe is a case in point. A celebrity of the 1950s and 1960s, Monroe was considered the most ravishing woman of her time and one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood. Yet she was terribly vulnerable and insecure. Why?

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One possible problem is that highly attractive people can’t always tell if the attention and praise they receive from others is due to their talent or just their good looks. A study by Brenda Major and others (1984) illustrates the point. Male and female participants who saw themselves as attractive or unattractive wrote essays that were later positively evaluated by an unknown member of the oppo- site sex. Half the participants were told that their evalu- ator would be watching them through a one-way mirror as they wrote the essay; the other half were led to believe that they could not be seen. In actuality, there was no evaluator, and all participants received identical, very pos- itive evaluations of their work.

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